Friday, March 1, 2019

Florence and Pisa

Main cathedral of Florence.Our next stop in Italy was Florence. Since our Milan hotel was so close to the train station, we did not need to take a taxi or bus to get there. We just walked and then waited for a while inside the station to see which platform our bullet train will depart from.

Train to Florence.The ride itself was not especially eventful. We were all pretty impressed to see that our train was going over 300 km/hour at some points. We played a guessing game using complimentary magazines laying around, the children felt and behaved well.

From from our hotel. Duomo is on the left.Our hotel in Florence was unfortunately quite far from the center. However, we got a spacious room on the top floor, free breakfast, access to the executive lounge and this hotel had a mega whirlpool. The whirlpool was pretty much the size of a regular pool, it had nice little areas where you can lie down and get your whole body massaged by water, plus it had a traditional jacuzzi area and a waterfall. I’ve never seen pools like this one, and the water was so warm that we could stay there without much motion for two hours and not get cold.

Massive hot tub.Plus, there were very few people in the pool, so oftentimes we were the only ones there. Kids LOVED it, although I think swimming had a mild negative effect on Anna’s ears. She just finished drinking antibiotics for acute ear infection which she developed as a complication of a viral infection, and her ears started bothering her again. Luckily, garlic ear drops helped to keep the pain at bay and to heal faster.

Our women.In order to get to the center of the city, we had to take Hilton’s complimentary shuttle and then a tram. The shuttle was going once every half our or so and there were longer breaks, so it was a little annoying at times, but still the benefits of Hilton for us outweigh the sub-optimal location.

View from the top of cathedral tower.When we got to the center of Florence, we walked around, enjoying the beauty and special historic flavor of its narrow streets and old dwellings. We admired Duomo for a while.

Anna and hers and mine Florentine steak.Then we went to ZaZa — which we visited on our last trip as well — and had a nice dinner. Daniel and Anna got a Florentin steak, which was much better this time since it was more cooked through per our request. The steak itself was enormous — the size of a soccer ball. After that we walked around some more, grabbed a cab to the hotel and hit the pool.

At the stop of 414 step high tower.We dedicated the whole next day to more Florence exploration. We took 414 steps to the top of the bell tower. Everyone did a great job climbing by the way! It was really windy at the top, but the view was magnificent.

Florence.We ate lunch at some restaurant in the center. There was a Russian hostess inviting us in, and we thought that we might as well try it. I got a risotto, and it was quite delicious.

414 steps up and down.We walked for a while after lunch. Visited famous Ponte Vecchio, tried to take in the beautiful views of Arno river, window shopped little jewelry and souvenir stores.

Ponte Vecchio.We tried to find a good gelato, but for the lack of options settled on the overpriced mediocrity at the end. The only plus side was that we could eat the gelato inside, and that’s exactly what we did. We took a cab to the hotel again, and after a light snack at the executive lounge hit the pool again.

Gelato!Our last full day in Florence was supposed to be spent on visiting the world famous Ufizzi gallery. However, Aaron made us change our plans. The thing is that he heard about the tower of Pisa before visiting Italy, and was under impression that he’ll get to see it on this trip. When he found out that we were not actual planning to go there, he got a little upset and really asked us if it was possible to do it.

A LOT of gelato!When we were making our plans originally we explored that option and decided that an hour trip each way on the train was too tiresome for the children, but as I said, Aaron really wanted to go. So that’s what we did. We got to the station, bought open-ended tickets and took a train to Pisa. We had to walk for a while to get to the tower, and it was drizzling, but the children were excited.

Tower of Pisa.After looking at the tower and taking pictures, we ate lunch at the nearby restaurant, and headed back. Daniel had gnocchi with pesto and Arosha was brave enough to try them. He liked it so much that he ordered them for himself at some point later in the trip instead of his meal of preference — pasta with marinara sauce.

Our women.The children bought little souvenir towers and were extremely excited about those. We had to hurry though to make it to the train in time in order not to lose another hour for being a few minutes late, so I grabbed Anna in my hands and we ran. Unfortunately, Anna was partially obstructing my view and I managed to bump into a short pole near to the train station and fell down. Luckily, Anna was not hurt and I just got a nasty bruise on my right knee.

Pisa.We made it in time for the train, then took a cab from the train station, got light dinner at the executive lounge and finished the day with the pool again.

The next morning we headed out to Venice.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Our Day in Milan

Milan Duomo.The biggest Milan attraction for us was the Milan Cathedral. I remembered what it looked like really well, and was hoping that the children will be impressed by the Duomo and by the fact that they could get on its roof.

Inside the cathedral.A week before the vacation I finished reading a book about Italian resistance during World War II “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan. It is based on a real story of Pino Lella, who was a Milanese native, so a big part of the action took place in Milan. My reading about the city and its people made visiting the city more interesting and somehow nostalgic. Milan took heavy bombing during those years, but I’m glad that the Duomo is still standing.

Rose windows.After a substantial Hilton breakfast, we took a subway to the Milan Cathedral. On a side note, there are a lot of shady looking characters who volunteer to “help” with entrance ticket purchasing, but we just asked to be left alone, and luckily they did not persist, although a young guy was eyeing Daniel up and down for a few minutes, while I was eyeing him in return.

View from the roof of Milan Cathedral.There were a lot of people by the Duomo. A lot of pigeons too. There was a huge line to enter the cathedral and a separate huge line to buy entrance tickets. Luckily, we got preferential treatment in both lines on account of kids and skipped both of them. I think that saved us 1.5-2 hours of waiting. Hooray such an attentive and kind attitude to children!

On the roof.Interesting thing is that both Aaron and Anna remembered being told about the cathedral during art classes which they took in Brooklyn. Aaron told us that he recognizes the rose windows and some of the statues. When we were inside, I saw remains of cardinal Schuster, and it was such a strange experience, since I was just reading about him in the earlier mentioned book.

On the roof.After appreciating the beauty of the Milan Duomo from the inside, we proceeded to the rooftop of the cathedral. There was an elevator going to the top, but we picked an option of taking 250 stairs. We all think that a little effort only enhances the experience — you feel the sense of achievement (however small) and endorphin rush because of that. I knew that for adults and Aaron this should not be a difficult task, but we were a little worried about Anna and her ability to make it to the top without my carrying her.

Top of the roof.To our surprise, not only she made it to the rooftop without any complaints, but she was not even out of breath. In fact, she and Arosha practically ran all the way! Another thing that was on our minds is Arosha’s mild fear of heights, especially on top of man-made structures. To our relief, he was not afraid! He and Anna had quite a lot of fun, and I even had to stop them from running since it did not seem appropriate and very safe.

All of us.After Duomo we went to get lunch. Last time we were so impressed by buffalo mozzarella pizza in Charleston restaurant that was located nearby, that we decided to revisit it with Arosha and Anuta. The food was as good as we remembered. Our waiter, an older Italian man who could speak some English, liked our kids and called Anuta a “principessa”, which is princess in Italian. We took liking to it right away and were calling her our principessa a lot during the trip. We still call her that now and then.

Streets of Milan.After lunch we decided to see Sforza Castle which is located in the walking distance. Got our first Italian gelato on the way. I think it was the best gelato of the entire trip. I don’t remember much about Sforza Castle since we did not get inside any of the buildings. I do remember the surrounding walls and the fact that Moscow Kremlin was originally modeled after this castle. Maybe next time we’ll explore it in more detail.

We ate light dinner at the executive lounge again and went to bed early.
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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Новый Год 2019

Yearly tradition. New Year family portraits.Ну вот мы и встретили первый Новый Год в новом доме! Как пожелал всем Даня, пусть 2019 будет спокойным и стабильным! Ну и, конечно, здоровья, здоровья и ещё раз здоровья!!!

Начать хочу с Рождества, а вернее даже с выходных перед ним. У детей в субботу, 22 декабря, начались зимние каникулы, а мы наконец-то выбрались в Бруклин — навестить даниных родителей, пообщаться с Сашей и Сеней и их мамами и сёстрами, закупиться продуктами в русских магазинах.

Us with sister.Поездка получилась весьма удачной. Дети много общались — за 2 дня мы провели на площадке около 8 часов, плюс пару часов были в гостях у Эрики. Так же Даня с Арошей успели подстричься, а мама с Линой приготовили на ужин в воскресенье шикарные манты. Ещё мы успели сходить в Сахару — какие же там вкусные салаты!— и заказать обед в местных китайском и тайском ресторанах, по которым тоже соскучились.

Siblings.Ароша хорошо играл и с Сеней (в основном в футбол), и с Сашей (во все, что угодно, кроме игр с мячом), Анюта неплохо пообщалась с Лизо и Милой, хотя иногда и капризничала и жаловалась на скуку. Мне тоже было приятно поболтать с девочками. Общения мне в новом доме немного не хватает.

Спать, конечно, было не очень удобно, но вполне терпимо. Я надеюсь, что в следующий раз мы выберемся в Бруклине быстрее, чем через пол года.

Parents.А само Рождество прошло в принципе как обычный день. Готовить праздничный стол за неделю до Нового года было неохота, идти куда-то в общественные детские места тоже, потому что дети слегка кашляли и сопливили. Они, к сожалению, и до сих пор не полностью здоровы, а школа уже началась. Анюта снова жалуется на уши, но я надеюсь, что обойдёмся чесночными каплями и избежим антибиотиков.

Fairy tale.Данины родители и Лина встречали Новый год с нами. Правда, не обошлось без небольших отклонений от плана. Во-первых, за пару дней до поездки к нам заболела Лина. С температурой, кашлем, слабостью и прочими неприятными явлениями. К счастью, к воскресенью температура опустилась до терпимых 37 градусов, но в результате до последнего момента было неясно, смогут родители приехать или нет.

Grandma and grandkids.Во-вторых, совершенно замотанная уборкой, готовкой и переживаниями Данила мама забыла взять свежесваренный холодец и картофельную лапшу для фунчезы. Она была жутко расстроена и даже порывалась ехать в Бруклин. Вместо этого решили наведать местный супермаркет и поискать там рисовой лапши, которую я там когда-то видела, и ингредиентов для нового холодца.

Лапша обнаружилась — блюдо из неё получилось вкусное, но не совсем такое, как ожидалось, а скорее что-то среднее между фунчозой и лагманом. Дети этот «лагмафун» ели 4 дня подряд с большим удовольствием.

Blowing kisses.А вот с холодцом повезло меньше. Правильного мяса не было, поэтому мы купили копченые свиные рульки. Результат эксперимента до сих пор стоит на балконе и дожидается ночи перед днём вывоза мусора, чтобы отрправиться на покой в мусорный бак. Температура у нас скачет от -7 до +13, поэтому выкинуть его сразу мы не решились боясь, что он растает и перепачкает весь бак.

Но вообще-то все это мелочи. А праздник прошёл очень хорошо.

Generations.Все нарядились, накрыли традиционный стол. Долго фотографировались. Даня заплатил за неделю телевисионного сервиса, дающего доступ к российским каналам с правильной задержкой времени, поэтому по привычке смотрели российский Новогодний Огонёк. Скучновато, елси честно — российскую эстраду я знаю постольку-поскольку, но местная передача как минимум не лучше. А вот новогодние российские, а вернее советские, фильмы мы в этот раз не смотрели совсем. Ну просто воротит уже от всех этих “Ироний Судьбы”, “Карнавальных Ночей”, “Девчат” и иже с ними.

Дети очень ждали подарков, и кое-что мы разрешили им открыть уже днём. Остальные Анюта получила после ужина, а Ароша дождался полуночи и прихода Нового Года. Не могу сказать, что Ароше очень легко далось не спать до такого позднего времени, но он был очень решитально настроен встретить 2019 вместе с нами. Анюта же ушла спать где-то в 22:30, что для неё тоже на 2 часа позже обычного времени отхода ко сну.

Dad and Daughter.Подарков было как всегда много, и получать, и дарить было приятно. Анюта получила в основном разные вещи для рисования и поделок, Арошу одарили ребусами, рацией, светящимися панелями на стену и snow globe с красным кардиналом внутри. Даня получил такие же панели, только в большем количестве, а я стала обладательницей кухонного комбайна KitchenAid и разных новых кремов и масок для лица.

Даниной маме мы подарили безпроводные наушники и набор для тестирования ДНК, а папе акксесуары для его новых Apple Watch. Лина получила в подарок разную одежду. Кстати, одежду получили в принципе все. Еще мы заказали наши традиционные календари, составленные из фотографий инстаграммы. Я от них получаю массу удовольствия, ежедневно отрывая листочек и вспоминая какую-то приятную сценку из прошлых лет.

Mom and Daughter.А на православное Рождество нас пригласили в гости Лёша и Ира. Кроме нас были Илья с Ульяной и детьми и еще одна незнакомая нам раньше семейная пара с двумя детьми. Время мы провели просто отлично! Накормили нас очень вкусно и обильно — в меню было 12!!! блюд. Я на такой подвиг вряд ли бы решилась, хотя и люблю готовить. Но главная прелесть вечера (а провели мы в гостях больше 6 часов) заключалась в общении. И для взрослых, и для детей. Всё-таки не зря говорят, что общение положительно влияет на здоровье — как на физическое, так и на психическое.
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